How Not to Neuter Your Cat… A Quickie from MisAdventures

Curt and pets

It was rare that a photo of me in my childhood didn’t include one or several of our family pets. MC the Cat wasn’t in any of them, however…

 

This story is a bit short to include in my Friday Blog a Book series, but I still find it amusing enough to share. Remember how I reported on my efforts to hire the family pets to sleep on my bed and scare the ghosts away? MC was not one of the pets willing to join the effort. Here’s why.

 

While Demon had been an enthusiastic supporter of the ghost protection racket, MC never was, with good reason. He was a tom cat’s Tom Cat— as white as Demon was black, somewhat diminutive in size, and totally dedicated to scattering his sperm. Unfortunately, his small size meant that he often came out on the losing end in his battles with larger toms over fair kitty’s love. He would arrive home beat up and battered. One time a chunk of his ear was missing. Another time it was the tip of his tail. Pop decided that drastic measures were called for. M.C. would have to have to lose his offending appendages. Unfortunately, there wasn’t a lot of money in our family for veterinary bills. Our Italian neighbor, Papa, suggested an Old Country solution, a cheap way to castrate a cat.

“All you need is a pair of tin snips, a burlap bag, gloves, a pocket knife and a rope,” he suggested. Alarm bells should have gone off all over, but they didn’t. We moved ahead with the medical procedure.

While M.C. had never been a paragon of feline domesticity, he was at least partially tame.  He even managed a brief purr when I picked him up the morning of his ‘operation.’  Any previous pretensions of tolerating people ceased instantly, however, when his legs were tied up and he was dumped into the dark gunny sack.  When Pop cut a slit in the burlap with his pocket knife and reached a gloved hand through, he was met by claws of fury. M.C. had shed his ropes faster than Houdini.

No one, but no one, was going to grab him by the testicles and snip them off with a pair of tin snips. He clawed his way out of the bag and became a white blur as he disappeared into the Graveyard. After that we would only see him at dinner time and then only after we had put his food down and walked several feet away. Who could blame him.

Nancy Jo and the Graveyard Ghost… Blogging a Book

A photo of Nancy, Marshall and me somewhere around the time of the Graveyard Ghost. I’m on the left and my dog Tickle is next to me.

 

This is one of my Halloween favorites that I post every few years. Since it fits here in my blogged book on “MisAdventures,” I’m posting it again. 

My sister was seven years older than I and lived on a different planet, the mysterious world of teenage girls. Her concern about ghosts makes this story a powerful testimony to teenage hormones. If Marshall and I had a healthy respect for the Graveyard at night, Nancy’s fear bordered on monumental.

This story begins with Nancy falling in ‘love’ with the ‘boy’ next door, Johnny. His parents were good folks from a kid’s perspective. Marshall and I raided their apple trees with impunity, and Mama, a big Italian lady, made great spaghetti that included wild mushrooms. I was fascinated with the way she yelled “Bullll Sheeeet” in a community-wide voice when she was whipping Papa into line. He was a skinny, Old Country type of guy who thought he should be in charge.

I use the terms love and boy somewhat loosely since Nancy at 16 was a little young for love and Johnny, a 22-year-old Korean War Veteran, was a little old for the boy designation, not to mention Nancy. Our parents were not happy, a fact that only seemed to encourage my sister.

Her teenage hormones aided by a healthy dose of rebellion overcame her good sense and she pursued the budding relationship. Johnny didn’t make it easy. His idea of a special date was to drive down the alley and honk. Otherwise, he avoided our place. If Nancy wanted to see him, she had to visit his home. It should have been easy; his house was right behind ours.

But there was a major obstacle, the dreaded Graveyard. To avoid it, Nancy had to climb over the fence that separated our houses or walk up the alley past the Graveyard. Given her feelings about dead people, the solution seemed easy— climb the fence. Marsh and I had been over it many times in search of apples. Something about teenage girl dignity I didn’t understand eliminated fence climbing, however. Nancy was left up the alley without an escort.

While she wasn’t above sneaking out her window, Nancy asked permission to see Johnny the night of the Graveyard Ghost attack. She approached Mother around seven. It was one of those warm summer evenings where the sun is reluctant to go down and boys are granted special permission to stay up. Marshall and I listened intently.

“Mother, I think I’ll go visit Johnny,” Nancy stated and asked in the same sentence. Careful maneuvering was required. An outright statement would have triggered a parental prerogative no and an outright question may have solicited a parental concern no.

Silence. This communicated disapproval, a possible no, and a tad of punishment for raising the issue.

“Mother?” We were on the edge of an impending teenage tantrum. Nancy could throw a good one.

“Okay” with weary resignation followed by, “but you have to be home by ten.”

What we heard was TEN. Translate after dark. Nancy would be coming down the alley past the Graveyard in the dark and she would be scared. Knowing Johnny’s desire to avoid my parents, we figured she would also be alone. A fiendish plot was hatched.

At 9:45 Marsh and I slipped outside and made our way up the alley to a point half way between our house and Johnny’s. Next we took a few steps into Graveyard where weed-like Heavenly Trees and deep Myrtle provided perfect cover. Hiding there at night was scary, but Marshall and I were operating under inspiration. Marsh stripped the limbs off of one of the young trees, bent it over like a catapult, and draped his white T-shirt on the trunk. We then scrunched down and waited.

At exactly 10:00, Nancy opened the back door and stepped outside with Johnny. Our hearts skipped a beat. Would he walk her home? No. After a perfunctory goodnight, Johnny dutifully went back inside and one very alone sister began her hesitant but fateful walk down the alley.

She approached slowly, desperately looking the other direction to avoid seeing tombstones and keeping as far from the Graveyard as the alley and fence allowed. At exactly the right moment, we struck. Marshall let go of the T-shirt and the supple Heavenly Tree whipped it into the air. It arched up over the alley and floated down in front of our already frightened sister. We started woooooing wildly like the eight and eleven-year-old ghosts we were supposed to be.

Did Nancy streak down the alley to the safety of the House? No. Did she figure out her two little brothers were playing a trick and commit murder? No. Absolute hysteria ensued. She stood still and screamed. She was feet stuck to the ground petrified except for her lungs and mouth; they worked fine.

As her voice hit opera pitch, we realized that our prank was not going as planned. Nancy was not having fun. We leapt out to remedy the problem.

Bad idea.

Two bodies hurtling at you out of a graveyard in the dark of night is not a recommended solution for frayed nerves and an intense fear of dead people. The three of us, Nancy bawling and Marshall and I worrying about consequences, proceeded to the house. As I recall, our parents were not impressed with our concept of evening entertainment. I suspect they laughed after we went to bed. Sixty years later, Nancy, Marshall and I still are.

MONDAY’S POST: Join Peggy and me as we begin a raft trip down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon.

WEDNESDAY’S POST: Back to Sedona’s red rock country for another Wednesday photo essay…

FRIDAY’S POST: The Great Tree Race… My brother and I face off in a race up the Graveyard’s 70-foot tall cedar tree.

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The Incredible Red Rock Country of Sedona— and a Chapel… Part 1

Sedona west

The town of Sedona (center photo) is surrounded by striking scenery. I took this picture from near the airport looking west.

 

It’s time again for the Wednesday Photo Essay. Today and next Wednesday, I will be featuring Sedona, Arizona.

 

I still remember the first time I followed Oak Creek Canyon down from Flagstaff, Arizona to Sedona. I had been up backpacking down in the Grand Canyon in 1986 and the side trip was something of an afterthought. I’d seen photos of the area’s striking red rocks and knew of the town’s New Age reputation. There were supposedly vortexes found there, psychic hot-spots that UFOs liked to visit. How could I resist? On the other hand, how could it possibly match my experience in the Canyon? Would I be disappointed?

The answer is a firm no; the detour was different— but very worthwhile.

I’ve been back several times since. The beauty of the red rocks calls to me and I find the New Age character of its inhabitants both interesting and amusing. I read recently that there are 176 New Age-oriented businesses in Sedona. I doubt that any other community in the world can claim such a concentration. The Age of Aquarius is alive and well!

Sitting on a vortex in Sedona, Arizona

Ommm. Here I am, sitting on a red rock vortex point below the Sedona airport practicing my meditation technique and waiting for a UFO. A heretofore unnoticed aura is wrapped around my head. Grin. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

My last visit was three years ago when Peggy and I visited for a week in November along with our friends Ken and Leslie Lake. The pictures from this and next week’s Wednesday photo essays are from that trip. Today’s will be mainly from the east side of town. Next week I will post photos from the west side including a hike up Boynton Canyon. Enjoy.

Chapel of the Holy Cross

One of Sedona’s most famous sites is the Chapel of the Holy Cross. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Chapel of the Holy Cross in Sedona

I decided that the chapel and its surroundings would do well as a black and white photo.

Chapel of Holy Cross in Sedona, Arizona photo taken by Curtis Mekemson

Another perspective.

Twin rocks in Sedona, Arizona

These striking rocks are located east of the chapel. We took several photos. This one was by Peggy. I think this pair is known as the Two Nuns.

Twin rocks in Sedona, AZ

I added a tree for contrast.

Sedona Cactus

Peggy caught this cactus just down from the chapel.

Cactus and twin rocks in Sedona

And I took a photo of its companion with the Nuns!

Twin rocks in Sedona

Several other towers were located above the Nuns…

Sedona red rock column

Including this beauty. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Sedona, Arizona

The view south wasn’t bad either!

Sedona Arizona rock

Bell Rock in Sedona

Most of the prominent rock formations around Sedona have been named. I’ll close today with Bell Rock. Be sure to check in next Wednesday for more of the red rocks of Sedona as we journey east of the town to the area featured at the top of this post.

 

FRIDAY’S POST: My sister Nancy Jo is attacked by the Graveyard Ghost. A very scary tale.

MONDAY’S POST: A trip through the Grand Canyon by raft on the Colorado River.

WEDNESDAY’S POST: We return to Sedona for more gorgeous red rocks.

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Ocean Shores … Final Post on the Washington Coast Series

Grays Harbor photo by Curtis Mekemson.

There is no doubt about the beauty of Ocean Shores. This photo looks out into Grays Harbor. The Pacific Ocean is off to the right.

 

Several years ago, Peggy owned some property in Florida down around Port Charlotte. She and her first husband had purchased two pieces as an investment in one of the huge Florida land schemes. The first parcel, located on a man-made canal, had sold easily long before I knew Peggy. The second piece, which might best be described as swamp-land, was still hanging around when we met many years later and was valued at less than the original price. With skyrocketing real estate values in the mid 2000s, we were finally able to sell the land to some questionable characters out of Miami who had dollars to burn for a small profit. We breathed a huge sigh of relief and turned the money over to our kids.

I only tell this story now because Ocean Shores on the central coast of Washington has a similar history. Developers were going crazy in the 60s and purchasing oceanfront property as cheaply and as quickly as they could put together deals. Land was then subdivided, roads put in, and prices jacked up to create substantial profits. Potential buyers were fed glowing stories about the beauty of the land, its recreational value, and the potential for future profit. It didn’t matter if the land was part of a swamp or that profits would be far into the future.

Land speculation in the US is as old as our country. George Washington may have been the “Father of the Nation” but he was also the father of rampant land speculation, a pursuit he was joined in by the likes of Ben Franklin, John Adams, and other founding fathers who invested in as much land out on the western frontier as they could lay their hands on. (It didn’t matter if the land was already occupied by Native Americans.) It can be argued that one of the reasons for the Revolution was that the British wanted to curtail such speculation.

The Ocean Shores Development Company purchased the area that would become Ocean Shores in 1960 for $1 million. Its location on a peninsula with the Pacific Ocean on one side and Grays Harbor on the other provided a lot of waterfront property to sell. The company quickly brought in a dredge to build canals to create more.  Hollywood personalities such as Pat Boone were recruited for promotion and the land boom was underway. In 2003, National Recreation Properties bought hundreds of lots in Ocean Shores and then resold them at three and four times what it paid. Eric Estrada from CHIPS was brought in for promotion purposes this time. Today, with limited oceanfront property available on the West Coast, property values continue to escalate.

Ocean Shores

Ocean Shores’ peninsula location means it has lots of waterfront property. Man-made canals built throughout the area have added even more. We were staying north of the community up toward the Highway 109 marker.

Peggy and I drove around the peninsula and checked things out. It was an attractive area and I could see why people would want to live in Ocean Shores, but I couldn’t help but think about the community’s low elevation. It would provide scant protection in a Tsunami and, barring that disaster, might be inundated by rising ocean levels. But that’s me. I am sure potential buyers and real estate agents see it differently. Following are a few photos from Ocean Shores and more from where we were staying at Copalis Beach.

Tide coming in at Grays Harbor

Another view looking out into Grays Harbor as the tide rolls in.

Driftwood seahorse at Ocean Shores

The city of Ocean Shores has added some neat driftwood art as an attraction. This seahorse was decked out for Christmas. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Photo of a driftwood seahorse in Ocean Shores, Washington by Peggy Mekemson.

Another perspective by Peggy.

Driftwood horse at Ocean Shores, Washington photo by Peggy Mekemson.

Having decided that she really liked the driftwood art, Peggy walked across the road and captured this skinny-legged horse.

Driftwood deer in Ocean Shores, Washington photo by Curtis Mekemson.

While I photographed a deer. I liked its antlers.

Small lake at Ocean City Washington

A small lake north of Ocean Shores caught our attention. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Seagrass and dunes at Copalis Beach

Back at where we were staying in Copalis, we decided to celebrate our final evening by hiking out to the ocean again. It was just across the small dunes.

Copalis beach sunset in Washington

As the sun started to set, we were joined by a bald eagle.

Sunset central coast of state of Washington

Then the sun captured our attention.

Peggy Mekemson at Copalis Beach

Peggy decided to go in search of it across the long, flat beach…

Peggy Mekemson at Copalis Beach

And celebrated…

Peggy Mekemson and sunset at Copalis Beach

Before returning…

Moon over Copalis Beach

Where she was greeted by moonrise.

Sunset central coast of Washington

We stood holding hands as the sun completed its journey. And then returned to the condo. It was time to pack up and head home…

 

WEDNESDAY’S POST: The gorgeous red rock country of Sedona, Arizona

FRIDAY’S POST: Nancy Jo and the attack of the Graveyard Ghost

 

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The Banning of the Animal Kingdom from My Bed… Blogging the MisAdventures Book

 

Big feet and army cot

A few years after the animals had been banned from my bed, I still had the old army cot, and bigger feet. I am reading a Western… serious literature.

 

In my last post, I related how I had hired the family pets to sleep on my bed when I slept outside in the summer to scare the ghosts away that lived in the Graveyard next to our house. Ir worked, but I had grown older and bigger. The pets were becoming more of a problem than the ghosts…

The night of the skunk was an exception to Pat’s normal stay-at-home routine. As usual, I had crawled into bed with an assortment of animals. That evening, it was minus Pat. Good, she took up a lot of room. Somewhere around midnight I half way woke as she hopped up on the bed, completed three dog turns and snuggled down. Consciousness made a quantum leap as my nose was assailed by an unmistakable perfume.

“Seems we have a skunk visiting,” I told Pat and reached down to scratch her head. The fur was moist. As I pulled my hand back, the skunk suddenly got much closer! Now, I was totally awake. Ms. Greyhound had been bullying the wrong pussy cat. It was a night to sleep inside. In fact, Marshall had a roommate for several days. I don’t know how many times I washed that hand but I do know that the bedding was tossed and Pat learned what a tomato juice bath was. When I finally made it back outside, the animals were put on notice, one more problem and off they went.

Then Demon made her contribution.

She was well into middle age by this time and there had been no pause in kitten production. Every few months she shelled out another litter. She had long since finished overpopulating Diamond and was working on surrounding communities. We were teetering on becoming known as the Cat Family of Diamond Springs.  She started hiding her kittens and became a master at subterfuge. If someone tried to follow her, she would stop and nonchalantly give herself a bath, her whole body, one lick at a time. Then she would wander off in the opposite direction.

Mother paid me in cookies to track Demon down. When the Graveyard was her destination, I had a flat tombstone I would stand on as a lookout. There was an added advantage; Demon didn’t check for people perched on tombstones. Who would? Eventually, the missing litter would be discovered. I felt like Daniel Boone.

Demon’s special home delivery took place the same summer Pat had her close encounter with the skunk. As noted earlier, my attitude about bed companions had become testy. I wasn’t above rolling over quickly to see how many I could dislodge. A really good roll would net three or four. Sleeping with me was like living on the San Andreas Fault.

I did feel guilt over routing Demon. Once again she was pregnant. I watched her balloon out. By this time, I was a veteran of the birthing process and found it interesting rather than troublesome. One night I had awakened to Pat howling, found that she was delivering puppies, and sat up with her through the process. Another time I had gone out with Tom Murphy, our grocer, and assisted in the delivery of a calf that wanted to come out the wrong way. It was messy, up to the elbow work. I really didn’t expect to be around for the arrival of Demon’s kittens. That would take place in some hidden nook. One should never make assumptions.

It started as a normal night. Roll over, kick off the animals, and go to sleep. Wake up and repeat the process. It was not a normal morning; I woke up with wet feet.

“What the heck!” I exclaimed as I sat up quickly, dislodging Pat in the process. Demon looked innocently back at me from the foot of the bed. Okay, nothing suggested why my feet were wet. Then I noticed movement. Demon was not alone. Several little black clones were lined up for breakfast. Demon had delivered her litter on the bed and my feet were awash in afterbirth.

That did it.  My bed was not a home for wayward dogs who encountered the business end of skunks and it certainly wasn’t designed as a maternity ward for unwed cats. I bought a water pistol and initiated a campaign of terror. Any four-legged critter on the bed became fair game. The cats learned quickly; getting shot with a water pistol was not their idea of a proper bath. The dogs were more resistant. Usually it took several squirts and then I would get the look: big brown eyes accusing me of dark deeds. But I was tough and my canine companions eventually vacated the premises. As soon as I fell asleep, however, the whole menagerie, fleas and all, would quietly slip back up on the bed.

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Searching for Roots… A Photo Essay on Southwestern Scotland

Scenic Scotland

Peggy and I explored the southern and southwestern part of Scotland with its rolling hills and green, green pasture lands.

 

Today I am returning to the Wednesday photographic essay part of my blog. This time I will feature the southwestern area of Scotland with a few photos of Edinburgh thrown in. Peggy and I shared in taking the photographs.

 

Peggy, Jane, Jim and I wrapped up our narrowboat tour and then hopped on a train bound for Edinburgh, Scotland where we hung out together for a few more days before parting company. Jane and Jim returned to London while Peggy and I rented a car and headed out on a quest. I was eager to see some of the areas my ancestors had come from including the grave of a long dead Presbyterian martyr, John Brown, who had been shot down in the 1600s because he refused to recognize England’s king as God’s representative on earth. The Presbyterians were stubborn that way.

Edinburgh is an impressive city that is very easy to get lost in, or at least get lost trying to get out of!

Edinburg Scotland 1

Edinburg 3

Edinburg 4

Sir Walter Scott’s Memorial.

Edinburg 2

Duke of Wellington

The Duke of Wellington.

The car rental place upgraded us to a Mercedes and wished us good luck on finding our way out of the city.

Peggy and mercedes

Is this woman determined or deranged? And is she really biting the steering wheel? I thought that she was a bit old for a teething ring.

We quickly discovered that there are a lot of sheep in Scotland— big woolly creatures. They like to stand in the middle of the road and refuse to move.

Sheep in Scotland 2

My road

“My road!” Peggy and I were on a great detour (we were lost again) when we came on this sheep blocking the road. I thought I might have to get out of our car and pull a Crocodile Dundee on it. The red marking is to show ownership.

Sheep in Scotland

Smug.

Scottish sheep

Hungry. The great range wars of the Western United States between cattlemen and sheepmen in the 1800s were partially because sheep like to crop the grass so close to the ground.

Scottish cow

This steer seems to agree about sheep.

Shetland pony

And who knows what this wild Shetland was thinking?  It may have thought we were good for an apple. Or maybe it was a reincarnated ancestor of mine trying to make contact…

We checked out several graveyards. I was, after all, searching for dead people.

Scottish graveyard

These tombstones were so large they could have had books written on them. Wait, they did. Check out the light gray marker on the right.

Peggy and Scotland grave

Peggy demonstrates just how big the tombstones were.   If I am correct in reading her body language, she is saying, “And how many more graveyards are we going to visit today, Curt? Don’t you realize it is raining and cold out here?” (Actually, Peggy is a great sport about visiting graveyards and this might have been one of her ancestors.)

John Brown's grave

The lonely grave of John Brown, the Presbyterian martyr, who would have been a great, great, great, great, great, grandfather of mine, or something like that. My story of John Brown and the Presbyterian Covenanters, as they were known, can be found here.

Castles were also on our itinerary. There are bunches in Scotland. Each lord wanted one to protect himself from the English— or his neighbor. One of my fifth cousins had assured me that the Mekemson family once owned a Scottish Castle, but it was north of Edinburgh.

Scottish castle 4

Old castles are a feature of Scotland. They are well built, but a bit airy.

Scottish castle 2

Scottish castle 1

Cat

Here kitty, kitty, kitty. Wonderful whiskers. Nice bouquet.

Peggy in castle

I found a winsome wench in one. Oh wait, that was a fair maiden!

Most of our time was spent admiring the beautiful scenery and fun towns plus visiting with the warm and welcoming people of Scotland.

Scenic river in Scotland

The River Nith in Dumfries.

Scottish broom

Scotch broom

Scotch Broom was everywhere, adding its beautiful yellow to hillsides.

Scene in Scotland

I am a fan of stone walls. Fences don’t get much classier! But imagine the work…

Stone circles in Scotland

Speaking of moving rocks, these boulders were placed here several thousand years ago as part of a sacred site.

Homes in Scotland

Small towns were colorful and clean. Kirkcolm was where my great-grandmother on the Thompson side was from. It’s where we met the Shetland.

Great grandfather's home

And this might have been the home of her father.

Window in Scotland

A fun window with posies.

Flowers in Scotland

And a flower pot built into the front of a building to wrap up today’s post.

 

FRIDAY’S Blog-a-Book POST: The animal kingdom is kicked off my bed

MONDAY’S Travel Blog POST: A wrap up on the central coast of Washington

WEDNESDAY’S Photo Essay POST: The beauty of Sedona Arizona

A Think-Disaster Kind of Day… When It Comes Down to Move Your Town or Drown

Gift of salmon totem pole at Taholah, WA

The ocean has provided sustenance to the Quinault Indians for thousands of years. This totem pole that Peggy and I found in the community of Taholah represents that bounty. But now both the community and salmon fishing are threatened by global warming.

The small town of Taholah located on the edge of the mighty Pacific has a plan. It’s going to move back from the rising ocean. Global warming is a reality for the self-governing Quinault Indian Nation encompassing some 316 square miles (819 square kilometers) on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula. Storm surges in 2014 and 2015 have inundated the lower part of the town where critical police, fire, education, and governing services for the nation are located. Moving will be a challenge, but it is one that has to be faced as ocean waters rise.

One can only wonder what cities like Los Angeles, New York and other major population centers located along the world’s oceans will do as they face similar problems.

Quinault River at Taholah, WA

The Quinault River empties into the Pacific Ocean at Taholah. A low seawall protects the community from the river and ocean, but it isn’t enough.

Taholah Memorial Park

A memorial park is one of the areas threatened by the rising water.

Thunderbird in Taholah, WA

We also found Thunderbird in the park.

Beaver totem pole at Ocean Shores Interpretive Center

Beaver, on the other hand, was hanging out at the Ocean Interpretive Center in Ocean Shores.

Peggy and I drove up to Taholah and checked out the town from where we were staying at Copalis Beach.  The area is rich in natural resources from both the forests and the ocean. Taholah sits on the edge of the Quinault River, which has provided a bounty of salmon to the natives for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. (The Quinault Indians believe that they have lived in the area from the beginning when Raven upended a clam shell and found humanity lurking underneath.) But even the salmon are facing the impacts of global warming. The glaciers that provided fresh, cold water to the Quinault are melting and severely impacting the salmon population with both warmer water and extensive silt.

Since hiking is limited on tribal lands, Peggy and I returned to Copalis and headed out to Griffith-Pride State Park for a walk. It was much flatter than the area around Taholah. My thoughts turned from global warming to tsunamis. The whole area from Copalis to Ocean shores could be wiped out in a big one. I couldn’t help but be a tad nervous. It was a think-disaster kind of day.

Wet boardwalk at Griffith-Pride State Park, WA

An interesting trail leads out to the ocean over the low sand dunes at Griffith-Pride State Park.

Douglas fir at Copalis Beach

It was wet along the way!

Old road through Griffiths-Pride State Park in Washington

At one time, the trail had been a road.

Half a rainbow at Griffith-Pride State Park in Copalis Beach, Washington

A half rainbow caught our attention. Clearing skies promised sunny weather. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Peggy on disappearing trail in Griffiths-Pride State Park

Occasionally, the trail disappeared into brush!

Connor Creek and rainbow at Griffith-Pride State Park, WA

Eventually we came on to Connor Creek and found the other half of the rainbow.

Connor Creek at Surfcrest Condominiums

Connor Creek also flowed by where we were staying. More time would have found us kayaking it! (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Looking out to sea at Copalis Beach, WA

The creek flowing into the ocean provided a perspective on just how flat Copalis Beach is. Crashing waves can be seen in the distance. It would take a lot of running to escape a Tsunami!

Sunset at the Quinault Casino

We had a tender prime rib that night at the Quinault Indian Casino in Ocean City, where we were treated to this sunset. It’s a fitting end for today’s post.

 

WEDNESDAY’S POST: A photographic essay from Scotland

FRIDAY’S POST: Back to blogging “MisAdventures.” The animal kingdom gets banned from my bed

MONDAY’S POST: The end of my series on the Northwest Coast of northern Oregon and central Washington

 

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Hiring the Family Pets to Scare Away the Ghosts…

Curt Mekemson and pets

The Graveyard was just across the alley from our house. As usual, I am occupied with some of the our family pets.

 

Each summer I slept in our back yard. I would move out as soon as school was over and stay until school started, or longer if parents and weather permitted. At first I slept on the ground in a cheap cotton sleeping bag. The ground was hard, the nights cool, and the mosquitoes persistent, but these were minor drawbacks. I was free. If I had to pee, I’d climb out of bed and find the nearest bush. If I woke up thirsty, a convenient garden hose provided water. I would go to sleep watching the stars and listening to a giant bullfrog croak away in the ditch in front of our house. I would wake to cool morning air and chirping robins.

Life was good. And then it got better. The grandparents bought me a real bed— a wood framed, steel spring army cot complete with mattress.

Graveyard ghost

The thing about graveyards is that dead people are buried there. This seemingly innocent tombstone was once hidden among the heavenly trees that turned the Graveyard into a jungle. Except it wasn’t totally hidden. I could see it from our backyard at night. It was, um, ghostly.

My paradise was marred by one thing, the Graveyard. It was always there on the edge of my sight.  White tombstones glared at me. As hard as I would pretend, the cemetery and its frightful inhabitants would not go away. So, I developed an elaborate set of defenses. The simplest was to sleep facing the opposite direction or to hide under the covers, ostrich like. A more sophisticated approach was to locate the bed where I couldn’t see the Graveyard.  Our seasoned cars worked in a pinch, but they weren’t large enough. Bits and pieces of the Graveyard would creep around their sides, peek over their tops and slink under their bottoms. A trellis built by my father was much better. Its luxurious growth of honeysuckle created the perfect Graveyard screen. I set up a permanent residence behind it.

House next to graveyard

These were more tombstones I could see from our house, whose roof can be seen in the back of the photo.

But even the trellis wasn’t enough to calm my imagination. I decided to hire protection. It came in the form of various family pets. Their job was to chase the ghosts away. Payment was made by allowing them to sleep on my bed. Apparently, the scheme worked. At least no ghosts attacked me during the years I slept outside.

The downside was I didn’t have much room. Two dogs, three cats, and me on a one-person army cot constituted a menagerie, or a zoo, if you counted the fleas. It was difficult to move. At first, I was very careful not to disturb my sleeping companions. I became a circus contortionist frozen in place with body parts pointed in every direction. If this meant a restless night, so be it. It was a small price to pay for keeping the ghosts at bay.

Gradually, my attitude changed. I grew larger, the bed space shrank, and animals started sleeping on top of me. Meanwhile, the ghosts, who tend to hassle little people more than they do big people, became less a threat. Therefore, I needed less protection. Neither of these factors led to the final banning of the animal kingdom, however. It was the shameless shenanigans of Demon and Pat.

Demon, the alpha family cat, was as black as the darkest night. As such, she was appropriately named and attired for graveyard duty. In fact, she spent a good deal of her life there stalking mice, lizards, birds and anything else she could get her claws into with impunity. Captured prey would then be brought home for approval. My job was to dispose of the half-eaten carcasses. Depopulating the Graveyard was not Demon’s claim to fame, however; motherhood was. She had kittens often and everywhere. I suspect that half of the cats living in El Dorado County today can trace their lineage back to her.

Two instances of kitten production bring back vivid memories. The first took place on the living room floor. Demon was a young cat at that time and a neophyte at motherhood. Her impending delivery was quite apparent from her large belly and ceaseless exploration of clothes hampers, cupboards and other dark places.

With high hopes of avoiding a misplaced litter of kittens, Mother arranged her bedroom closet as a maternity ward. Several times each day it was my duty to show Demon her new home. I would carefully pick up the very pregnant cat, carry her to the closet, and deposit her in a box filled with well-used clothes. Demon didn’t buy the program.  It seems my bedside manner was faulty. She would climb out of the box, give me a glare, and stalk out of the bedroom.

When the joyous day finally arrived, I was home alone.  Demon was practicing her would-be mother waddle walk across the living room when she suddenly stopped, squawked and squatted. Neither she nor I was ready for what followed. After all, how prepared can a young kid and a first-time mother be for birth? In a massive surprise to both of us, a tiny black bundle of fur emerged from Demon’s undercarriage. Surging emotions paralyzed my seven-year old mind. One thought stood out, the closet! If Demon hadn’t memorized her delivery lessons, I had.

I jumped across the room, grabbed Demon by the nape of the neck, and raced for Mother’s bedroom. As fast as I ran, it wasn’t fast enough. In the middle of the kitchen the new arrival completed its journey and was heading for a crash landing. Somewhere, somehow between Demon and the floor, I caught a warm, wet ball of fur in my free hand. After that, the memory fades. I know the three of us made it to the closet. Demon accepted her new home and four more kittens followed the first, although in a less dramatic way. The population explosion was underway.

We have to fast-forward several years to Demon’s next memorable delivery. This one was outside and led to the bed-pet-ban. But first I need to relay how Pat the Greyhound set the stage. She joined our family as a stray. For weeks, Mother had watched this large, starving dog wander the countryside and survive by catching rabbits and squirrels. One day she stopped the car, opened the door and invited Pat home for a meal.

Pat the Greyhound

Pat looking regal.

“Oh, it is just until she gains a little weight,” Mother explained to one very disgruntled Pop. Later it became, “Oh, but it would break Curt’s heart if we had to give her away.” Mother was a master at manipulation. Pat, who I named after the local Greyhound bus driver, had found a home. Like all of our pets, she lived outside. It was Pop’s rule; pets were limited to daytime visitation rights only. The pregnant Demon had been an exception imposed by Mother. Since there were no leash laws, Pat was free to come and go as she pleased. Mainly she chose to hang around with her food dish in sight. For a dog that had lived out in the wild, she had impeccable manners. Thus I was surprised when she joined Demon in abusing her bed rights, but that’s a tale for next Friday’s post…

MONDAY’S POST: It’s back to the central coast of Washington where global warming makes a point

WEDNESDAY’S POST: A photographic essay on Scotland

FRIDAY’S POST: The animal kingdom is banned from my bed

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Want a Small House— Think Narrowboat… A Trip on the Trent and Mersey Canal: Part 2

Swan in black and white on Trent and Mersey Canal

Graceful swans share the Trent and Mersey Canal with narrowboats. I decided to render this fellow in black and white to emphasize its feathers and show how swans tuck their wings over their backs.

 

This is my second post on the Trent and Mersey Canal. My first post took us from Sawley to Burton upon Trent. In today’s post, Peggy and I, along with her sister and brother-in-law, Jane and Jim Hagedorn, visit Burton on Trent and return to Sawley. 

 

Josiah Wedgewood’s concern about his pottery was a driving force behind the building of the Trent and Mersey Canal in the 1770s. Too many of his fine dishes were being broken when they were transported over the bumpy, rough roads of the time. A canal would provide for smooth sailing, or, at least smooth boating, and every industrialist wanted one to connect his plant with growing markets. For a brief period of time in the early industrial revolution, canals were the in-thing. Hundreds were built throughout England and Europe— as well as in the youthful United States.

Jilly Dee Narrowboat

This painting on the Jilly-Dee narrowboat spoke of earlier times on the canals when manufactured goods were carried on barges towed by horses and mules.

The painting reminded me of Erie Canal in New York state and one of the first songs I learned in elementary school. Here it is:

I’ve got a mule and her name is Sal
Fifteen miles on the Erie Canal
She’s a good old worker and a good old pal
Fifteen miles on the Erie Canal
We hauled some barges in our day
Filled with lumber, coal and hay
We know every inch of the way
From Albany to Buffalo

Low bridge, everybody down
Low bridge, we’re coming to a town
You’ll always know your neighbor
And you’ll always know your pal
If you ever navigated on the Erie Canal.

It was one of my favorite tunes, right up there with Old Dog Tray. I was particularly enamored with the idea of having a mule as a pal.

We passed under several low bridges during our trip, but none made us duck. Fortunately, our journey didn’t involve any of the long, low tunnels located on other parts of England’s canal system. I read that the earliest tunnel on the Trent and Mersey Canal was so low that the boatmen would lay down on their backs and push the boat through with their feet, using the top of the tunnel for leverage— for a mile! The mere thought of this sent claustrophobic twinges through my body!

Low Bridge on Trent and Mersey Canal

“Low bridge, everybody down!”

Railroads and modern highways made canals obsolete for transporting goods and would have spelled their doom except for the interest of historians, hobbyists, and the recreational industry starting in the 1950s. Recreation is booming today and numerous people have also discovered that narrowboats can provide the ultimate in an inexpensive, small house lifestyle for those with a gypsy nature. Sounds good to me. Most of these homes are uniquely decorated and come with interesting names like Belly Button, Idunno, and In the Mood. Others, such as Nomad Dreams, Sacagawea, and Gone Roaming, suggested the wandering nature of their owners.

Belly Button narrowboat on Trent and Mersey Canal

Narrowboats that people use for homes are often gaily painted and uniquely named!

Narrow boat dog on barrel on Trent and Mercy Canal

One of the boats had this painted barrel sitting on top…

Narrowboat dog on Trent and Mercy Canal

And then we spotted the model!

Peggy, Jim, Jane and I explored Burton upon Trent, spent the night, and then began our journey back on the Trent and Mersey Canal to the Sawley Marina. Once again, we enjoyed the challenge of piloting our 65-foot boat around obstacles and through locks, while appreciating the beauty and peace of the British countryside. Our most exciting moment was when Jim decided to park our boat up on the bank…

View near St. Pauls in Burton upon Trent

We wandered around admiring buildings in Burton.

Gargoyle on St. Paul's church in Burton on Trent

And found this gargoyle with its tongue sticking out at St. Paul’s Church.

Row houses and chimneys in Burton upon the Trent

Row houses, chimneys and threatening skies provided a photo-op…

Marston's brewery in Burton upon Trent

Marston’s original brewery is located in Burton on Trent and has been a longterm mainstay of the city’s economy. I went onto Marston’s website and found this quote: “No Marston’s, no beer, no beer, no Burton.”

Bargain booze in Burton upon Trent

Of course beer wasn’t the only alcohol available…

Carved kingfisher sculpture with fish in Burton upon Trent

Walking back to the canal, we were reminded by this carved kingfisher of the birds that make the canal their home.

Swan profile on Trent and Mersey Canal

Including swans and their Canadian Geese cousins.

Mallard moves along on Trent and Mersey Canal

A mallard moved along on some important mission…

Swans mating on Trent and Mersey Canal

While a pair of swans decided to make babies.

Baby ducks on Trent and Mersey Canal

Of which the mallards had already contributed a substantial number. There was no lack of baby ducks on our trip back…

Swan and narrowboats on Trent and Mersey Canal

Or swans.

Resting cattle along Trent and Mersey Canal

Cattle enjoyed a moment of sun…

Peggy Mekemson enjoying sunshine on Trent and Mersey Canal

As did Peggy!

Scenic view along Trent and Mersey Canal

We all continued to enjoy the scenery and serenity along the Trent and Mersey.

Buildings along Trent and Mersey Canal

Including the buildings.

Narrowboat with rain cover on Trent and Mersey Canal

And other narrowboats. This boater had created a canvas pilot house as protection from the elements. There were occasions when we were envious.

Poling narrowboat off shore on Trent and Mersey Canal

Our progress was delayed when Jim decided to park us on the bank. That’s when we really learned just how heavy our boat was.

Double-wide lock on Trent and Mersey Canal

Locks continued to slow us down as well. This was a double-wide. Just barely.

Church near Sawley Marina

When we spotted this steeple, we knew that we were close to home.

Sawley Marina

And thus we arrived.

Intrepid narrowboat crew in Burton on Trent and Mersey Canal

A final shot of Peggy, Jane, Jim and our moored boat.

 

SATURDAY’S POST: It’s back to blogging my book on MisAdventures. This time I hire the family pets to protect me from the dangerous ghosts that live in the graveyard next to my childhood home.

MONDAY’S POST: Peggy and I return to our before-Christmas adventure along Washington’s coast.

WEDNESDAY’S POST: A photograph essay on Scotland, which is where we went after our narrowboat trip.

 

Piloting a 60-foot long, 6-foot wide Narrowboat along England’s Trent and Mersey Canal: Part 1

 

Scenic reflection shot along Trent and Mercy Canal

Operating a narrowboat along Britain’s scenic Trent and Mersey Canal became a bucket list item for us as soon as we learned about the possibility.

To call me a boat person would be a very serious misnomer. Backpacker definitely— that’s where my true passion lies. It gets me into the wilderness. But boating, as a general rule, is something I’ve done little of. There are exceptions.

Peggy and I have boated up the Amazon, rafted down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon, and kayaked in numerous places throughout North America. I’ve canoed across the Kenai Peninsula of Alaska and down the Sacramento River of California. Peggy and I have even cruised the Mediterranean and crossed the Atlantic. And I’ve tried my hand at fishing for marlin off the coast of Mexico. Mainly, I see boats like I do bicycles, however: as a way of getting me to places I want to see. Bicycling or boating as sports in themselves have little appeal to me.

Our boat, the Amazon Clipper, docked for the evening deep in the rainforest on the Rio Negro River, Brazil.

Peggy and I enter the infamous Lava Falls on the Colorado River, a perfect ten… that’s 10 as in rapids don’t get any more serious. Shortly after that the boat, our boatman Steve, Peggy and I disappeared under the water. Happily, we resurfaced. (Photo by Don Green)

Sea Kayak Adventure kayaks roped together in small inlet on Hanson Island. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

I took this photo of our kayaks off of Vancouver Island while we were at lunch. The kayaks were roped together so they wouldn’t run away.

Given my mixed feelings about boating, I found myself surprised that I enjoyed piloting a narrow-boat along England’s Trent and Mersey Canal. There was something about making the 60-foot long, 6-foot wide boat go where it was supposed to, including into boat-wide locks, that I found both challenging and gratifying. It helped that we were only traveling 3-4 miles per hour (4.8-6.4 k)! Peggy and I had invited her sister Jane and brother-in-law Jim along with us on the 2011 adventure. While Jim and I took turns at the helm, Peggy and Jane operated the locks.

Instructions for piloting the boat and working the locks were provided when we arrived. Peggy reminded me that we had less than an hour of instruction before being turned loose with out 60-foot long, several ton vessel. I can only imagine how experienced boat people along the Trent and Mersey Canal view newbies coming out of the marina. Peggy and Jane’s lesson on operating the locks was more like 15 minutes! But we did have instruction sheets.

What it looks like from the helm of a narrowboat

This is what our boat looked like from the helm. Let’s just say that I was more than a little nervous when I took my first turn.

Jim researching our Trent and Mercey Canal trip

Jim, who never admits to being nervous about anything, studied the manual, or maybe he was reviewing our trip.

Piloting narrowboat under bridge on Trent and Mercy Canal

The challenges we would face included maneuvering our 60-foot vessel around sharp corners under low bridges…

Piloting boat into lock on Trent and Mercy Canal

And piloting the boat into narrow locks, some of which were hardly wider than the boat. In fact, the width of the locks was the reason for creating the narrowboats. It was even more challenging when you had to slip into a lock of this width with another narrowboat while pretending to know what you were doing!

Narrowboat in lock on Trent and Mercy Canal

Fortunately, being perfectly straight wasn’t necessarily required when we had the lock all to ourselves! Water flowing in will raise our boat to the level of the upstream canal.

Peggy works lock gates on Trent and Mercy Canal

While we were mastering entering and exiting the locks, Peggy and Jane were mastering opening and closing them. Fortunately, some helpful veterans were present the first time our companions were faced with the chore.

Jane Hagedorn works lock gates on Trent and Mercy Canal

Piloting around boat on Trent and Mercy Canal

Passing other boats could be challenging when the canal was particularly narrow.

Piloting past moored boats while metting another boat on Trent and Mercy Canal

Now, picture meeting another boat when both sides of the canal are filled with moored narrowboats!

Mooring narrow boat

Another skill we had to master was mooring the boats when we stopped for the night or at a local attraction— such as a pub. Camping was free along the Trent and Mersey Canal.

Peggy doing dishes in our tiny galley

We lived on the boat, which came with a small galley, sitting room, and bathroom.

Single bed on a narrowboat

While the master bedroom had a small double bed, the other beds were barely wide enough to sleep on.

The Sawley Marina is located close to Nottingham and borders on the shires of Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire and Derbyshire. (Being close to Nottingham took me back to my childhood days and tales of Robin Hood.) Our objective was to follow the Trent and Mersey Canal to Burton upon Trent and return, a short distance of 34 miles (54.7k). The literature said we could make the trip in a leisurely three days. We chose a more leisurely six. How else could we check out all of the pubs and fine English ale along the way?

Enjoying pub along Trent and Mercy Canal

Jim, Jane and I enjoy one of the several pubs along the Canal while Peggy took the photo.

In addition to piloting the boat and checking out the pubs, there was a generous dose of bucolic beauty to enjoy along the way— as one might expect in Britain’s Midlands. Graceful swans, lots of ducks, and lazy cattle provided entertainment while walks through small villages and the larger town of Burton upon Trent gave us breaks from boating.

Direction sign on Trent and Mercy Canal

A sign takes us onto the Canal proper.

Scenic flowering tree and mustard along the Trent and Mercy Canal

There was considerable beauty along the canal and traveling at three miles per hour, we had plenty of time to enjoy it.

Scenic view with flowering tree along Trent and Mercy Canal

Since it was May, everything seemed to be in bloom.

Building along Trent and Mercy Canal

Numerous buildings along the way added interest and color.

Bridge number 11 on the Trent and Mercey Canal

Bridges also provided variety. Each one seemed different. Numbers on the bridges told us where we were.

Bridge number 13 on the Trent and Mercy Canal

The bridges also added to the beauty.

Fishing on Trent and Mercy Canal

This one included guys fishing. Check out the length of the poles!

Scenic view from under bridge on Trent and Mercy Canal

Coming out from under a bridge.

Swan and reflection on Trent and Mercy Canal

Swans, ducks and other birds provided entertainment. I liked the reflection here.

Swan nesting on Trent and Mercey Canal

Nesting.

Swan chows down on Trent and Mercy Canal

And chowing down!

Mallard hen and chicks on Trent and Mercy Canal

I’ll conclude today with this mallard hen and her chicks.

I will be posting more photos of our narrow-boat tour on Thursday. Saturday I will return to blogging my book on MisAdventures with a story of how I hired our family pets to protect me from the fearsome ghosts that lived next to our house when I was a child.